World War I: Still Over


In other post-communist election news, Hungarians once again proved to be too bored to whip up a neighbor-spooking nationalist frenzy, failing to achieve the required 50%+1 turnout to grant citizenship to the 5 million ethnic Hungarians who live on the other side of the Trianon borders, in poorer countries like Serbia, Romania and Slovakia. This is good and not-unexpected news for opponents of pointless geopolitical tension, and the low turnout also scotched a proposed ban on privatizing health care.

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  1. Matt Welch,

    Aren’t they also post-WWII borders, given Hungary’s brief, but unsuccessful, expansion as an ally of Nazi Germany?

    Yeah, and I agree, its welcome news; smothering to death the irredentism of Eastern Europe is important.

  2. Gary — You are correct, sir. Also, bonus points for using one of my favorite words….

  3. Matt Welch,

    Does Hungary have anything similar to Germany’s immigration law that allows relatively free immigration of ethnic Germans to Germany?

  4. And in other news, Generalissimo Francesco Franco is still dead.

    I can’t believe I got to that first.

  5. speedwell-

    I would guess that in a former communist country like Hungary, “conservative” means old-guard, i.e. former Commies.

    Just a guess, however.

  6. Matt–as a former IR geek with an emphasis on Central Europe:

    Good writeup. 🙂

  7. What about their Right of Return?

  8. Joe,

    The correct form would have been “This breaking news just in, Empress Zita is still dead.”

    The empire (Habsburg not Roman) never, ever gets it’s due.

    QFMC cos. V

  9. sppedwell:

    In addition to what Matt said, I would point out that it actually is not uncommon in eastern Europe for Social Democratic parties–even when they originated as renamed Communist parties–being *more* pro-privatization than “conservative” parties, which campaign on Nationalism, Tradition, Family, the Small Peasant, the Church, etc. and rightly or wrongly see unmitigated free enterprise as a threat to all of the above.

  10. I just had 3 Hungarians over to dinner tonight, 2 of whom I just met and one of whom is a great friend. They all thought the dual citizenship thing was fine. They’re perfectly reasonable people, not rabid nationalists. The linked article and the commentary doesn’t leave any room for the notion that maybe it makes sense that people who are Hungarian can be Hungarian, and that if it spooks the neighbors, well, maybe that’s their problem. After all, something is being added, not taken away. Dual citizenship for Hungarians in Romania would not make a Romanian any less Romanian, nor would it give ethnic Hungarians more political power than they already have in Romania. Their added status would only apply in Hungary. Believe it or not, not everyone in favor of this is looking to stir up trouble. After all, they have seen what happened in the former Yugoslavia from up close.
    On the other hand, my friends didn’t seem so stirred up about it that I’m not sure they would have bothered voting if they had been in Hungary, which is one of the points of the post I guess.

  11. Oh, and thanks for giving me a dinner conversation topic!

  12. Regarding the “left” parties in parts of Europe being more pro-privatization:

    Didn’t the Solidarity movement in Poland start as a labor movement? Indeed, wasn’t the name “Solidarity” taken from labor union lingo? I’m guessing that Lech Walesa’s movement, although a labor movement and therefore associated with “the left” in the West, was strongly in favor of privatization.

    It makes sense to me that in a place where the “traditional way” has always been authoritarian, and where authoritarian government is associated with Communism, parties that Westerners would consider “left” might actually be more pro-market than parties of Tradition, Authority, Nationalism, the Church, etc.

    One more example of why it’s tricky to import political labels from one situation to another. Or, indeed, why it’s a bad idea to put too much weigh on political labels in the first place.

  13. On definitions:

    Politics is about power relations. Conservatives want to maintain traditional power relations, liberals want to reform those power relations (reforms that are meant to liberate those on the short end of the stick, hence the name), and reactionaries want to resurrect old power relations. Hence, the specific policies favored by “conservatives” in different places will vary, based on the pre-existing power structures.

    The link between the term “conservative” and small government, pro-market policies in this country is of fairly recent vintage. The people advocating for a reduction in the power of the British crown in commerce during the 1700s certainly weren’t considerered conservatives, but liberals. Having won, and having established their preferred set of power relations as the status quo, support for their policy program went from being liberal – designed to liberate people from traditional power relations – to conservative – designed to reinforce the set they established.

  14. This article touches on the issue.

    “The Triumph and Collapse of Liberalism”


  15. BTW, the most famous slogan in Hungarian history was “nem, nem soha!” (“No, no, never!”–referring to the Trianon borders.) I don’t think any substantial number of Hungarians, including supporters of the failed dual-citizenship initiative, are really of that mindset any more. But I can see why some of Hungary’s neighbors were a bit nervous. People in east central Europe have long memories.

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